The Perils of Sticky Rhetoric: A Discussion Led by Professor Ian Lustick

April 2022 No Comments

Speaker(s): Lustick, I. (University of Pennsylvania)

Date: 14 April 2022

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Professor Ian Lustick (Bess W. Heyman Chair (Emeritus), University of Pennsylvania) as part of its SMA “Anticipating the Future Operational Environment” (AFOE) Speaker Series.

The Global War on Terror shifted US global policies and actions while also enabling countries’ leaders to persecute members of their society by labeling them a terror organization. Dr. Lustick stated that the rhetoric surrounding the US’s global war on terror—following the attacks on September 11, 2001—caused an oversaturation of research focusing on terrorism. This oversaturation of literature causes researchers today to potentially prescribe too much importance to terrorism and its impacts on the global system. This is evident in NSI Inc.’s Global Exploitable Conditions Model (GECM), which shows terrorism as a significant influencing factor in the global system. Dr. Lustick admitted that terrorism may truly impact the world’s systems as much as GECM demonstrates. However, the oversaturation of research on terrorism likely influences its importance in the model.

Research focus on the war on terror is because of peoples’ emotional reaction to the 9-11 attacks, companies’ ability to defend or expand their budgets by linking their products or services to the war on terror, and the repeated showing of the attacks, which elevated public fear of another attack years after 9-11 occurred. Dr. Lustick referred to the stickiness of the Global War on Terror’s effects for these reasons and because of the overall narrative that was built by those in charge; the narrative being another terror attack is imminent. Peoples’ negativity bias also led society to become fixated on terrorism and the threat of another attack. The best way to create stickiness relating to a topic is to make it simple, concrete, emotionally triggering, and place it in a story format.

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials


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